Mangrove forest created by Mt. Pinatubo gets connected to Internet

Mobile operator Smart Communications and network equipment maker Ericsson launched on Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Connected Mangroves project to help conserve the marine ecosystem of the Bangkung Malapad critical habitat and ecotourism area in Sasmuan, Pampanga.

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The mangrove forest was formed immediately after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo when water carried soil sediments and lahar to the mouth of the Pampanga River and Bataan Bay.

Smart is the mobile network partner of Ericsson for the Internet of Things (IoT) project, the first of its kind to be implemented in the Philippines.

The IoT solution uses wireless connectivity to capture data relevant to mangroves’ survival such as water level, humidity, soil moisture and temperature, and other hazards in the environment.

The information, which is collected by waterproof solar-powered sensors attached to mangroves, will be transmitted over a cloud system to a dashboard accessible to concerned stakeholders, such as local authorities, fisherfolk and communities within the area.

Mangrove forests are important in the protection of seaside communities from typhoons, flooding, erosion and other coastal hazards, and serve as habitat for various aquatic life forms.

Scientists, however, say that in the last five decades, an estimated 50 percent of the world’s mangroves has disappeared, and every year another one percent is lost, based on information by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Sasmuan Bangkung Malapad critical habitat and ecotourism area (SBMCHEA) is home to several mangrove species and other flora and fauna. With its rich biodiversity, good climate and strategic location, the site also hosts more than 80 species of birds migrating from winter countries.

The area is also seen as a critical source of oxygen for the Manila Bay, according to the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB).

The globally recognized Connected Mangroves project was initiated by Ericsson in Malaysia, where threats such as illegal logging, fires, pollution and sea farms, have significantly reduced mangrove coverage over the past 10 years.

The project has achieved great success, with 70-80 percent of the mangroves now reaching maturity compared with only 20-40 percent that reached adulthood prior to the project.

PLDT and Smart public affairs head Ramon R. Isberto pointed out the role of tech partnerships in helping the cause of environmental protection.

“This solution provided by Ericsson, with the help of Smart’s connectivity, can help fisherfolk and local authorities track data on the mangroves. This information may be utilized to alleviate the condition in the area, and it can also be used a guide in policymaking,” he said.

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